Anti-Bias Education

During the 2015-2016 school year, Boulder Journey School mentors and directors formed a research group, centered around the book, Leading Anti-Bias Early Childhood Programs: A Guide for Change (Early Childhood Education) by Louise Derman-Sparks, Debbie LeeKeenan, and John Nimmo. In the 2016-2017 school year, this group expanded to include families’ and graduate students’ voices, examining the goals of Anti-Bias Education.

John Nimmo, EdD, Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Education, in the Graduate School of Education at Portland State University, Oregon and a recipient of the Social Justice Award and the Excellence through Diversity Award at University of New Hampshire, has been working with Boulder Journey School as we engage in these dialogues.

In January, 2017, John visited Boulder and met with over 25 Boulder Journey School mentors, graduate students, and parents to discuss anti-bias education, why it is important, and special considerations when engaging in anti-bias education in a school for young children.

We reflected on how we respond when there are differing points of view in one classroom.

We wondered if we have a responsibility to model that many points of view can exist together peacefully, in the classroom and in the world.

We were curious if parents anticipate that their children may learn about perspectives that are different from their own while at school.

To further the conversations, we discussed possible responses to the following classroom scenarios:

  1. A teacher invites parents to share the holiday music that they listen to at home in order to play the same music in the classroom. A parent responds that this is a fantastic idea, as long as none of the music is religious. Is it appropriate to ban one family’s religious beliefs from the class but not another family’s support of gay marriage, knowing that these two families have quite different value systems?
  2. How do we respond when a child asks if a girl can be a boy? If a girl can marry a girl? Why some people don’t have homes? Why people have different skin colors?

We used the goals listed below as points of reference:

THE GOALS OF ANTI-BIAS EDUCATION

(From: Louise Derman-Sparks & Julie Olsen Edwards, 2010. Anti-Bias Education for Young Children & Ourselves. Washington DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. p.xiv.)

  1. Each child will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identities.
  2. Each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity, accurate language for human differences and deep, caring human connections.
  3. Each child will increasingly recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts.
  4. Each child will demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discrimination.

THE GOALS OF AN ANTI-BIAS EDUCATOR

(From: Louise Derman-Sparks & Julie Olsen Edwards, 2010. Anti-Bias Education for Young Children & Ourselves. Washington DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. p.21)

  1. Increase your awareness and understanding of your own social identity in its many facets and your own cultural contexts, both childhood and current.
  2. Examine what you have learned about difference, connection, and what you enjoy and fear across lines of human diversity.
  3. Identify how you have been advantaged or disadvantaged by the “isms” (e.g. racism, sexism, etc) and the stereotypes or prejudices you have absorbed about yourself and others.
  4. Explore your ideas, feelings, and experiences of social justice activism.
  5. Open up a dialogue with colleagues and families about all these goals.

We value holding a space for conversations around these questions and goals and are grateful to the multiple perspectives shared and analyzed by the voices of our mentors, graduate students, and families.

 

 

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Thinking about Families’ Voices in the Classroom

On a cold evening in January, in the cozy Teacher Education Room of Boulder Journey School, educators from Boulder and Denver gathered for an evening of discussion, centered around how we support families in participating as active protagonists in the classroom community.

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Maureen Condon, Boulder Journey School mentor teacher, shared work from her toddler class. As a class of children who were all brand new to school, it was imperative for the teachers to find the threads that would support their transition and carry the children into their citizenship at the school. Observations of the children, followed by subsequent dialogue with families, led to the class adopting baby dolls for each child in the class. This adoption sparked a year of partnership and collaboration that carried this class through multiple layers of investigation. To read more about the baby doll investigation, read Care, Community, and a Collection of Babydolls.

Following Maureen’s presentation, participants were asked to reflect on their own strategies for engaging families in partnership. The group shared specific strategies:

“Using text messaging can cut through the clutter of emails.”

“We use SeeSaw. The microphone app allows ELL children to speak native language to their parents who don’t speak English.”

Participants were also asked to uncover strategies to support increasing reciprocity among families:

“Creating a culture of openness that encourages dialogue is the foundation for thinking of strategies.”

“Creating a welcoming culture increases dialogue.”

“Creating a culture of openness and welcoming supports families in voicing their concerns as well as their joys.”

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Participants from schools in Denver share reflections on the strategies available to support family collaboration.

Meagan Arango, Boulder Journey School mentor teacher, shared a story of investigating risk with a class of preschool-age children. She shared her personal reflections about how risky it felt for her to even brooch the topic with the families in her class. Would it reflect negatively on her as a teacher? Would it suggest that she didn’t care about the children’s safety?

Through communication and carefully documented experiences, Meagan and her co-teachers, graduate students in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP), offered experiences that changed her image of children.

With the support of the families, I was able to tackle a topic that felt too dangerous to research on my own. Because of that research, my image of the child was transformed, as I discovered how my fears had stymied my faith in their ability to assess risk. Because of the ongoing dialogue we maintained, I believe the families benefitted from these discoveries as much as I did. – Meagan 

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In addition to Boulder Journey School Mentors,  BJSTEP graduate students and alumni, and teachers from schools in the surrounding area, we were joined by educators from across the United States and Canada via Twitter. Read a recap of the Twitter conversation on Storify.

We hold professional development workshops monthly. They are open to everyone who can attend. Current BJSTEP members are always welcome to the evening workshops for free, while alumni attend for a 50% discount. We work hard to keep the workshops affordable for all members of our community at a $20 registration fee. Learn more about the Messing About workshop series.

The Blog As A Tool for Collaboration: Story from a Practicum Site

The value and practice of collaboration is a central component of the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP). At Boulder Journey School, teachers are encouraged to reflect on the meaning of collaboration and practice it daily through their work with co-educators, children, and families.  Depending on the collective interests and strengths of the school community, collaboration can take many forms. 

Recently, educators at Boulder Journey School have engaged in research around the school blog and how teachers can effectively utilize their classroom’s blog to encourage active participation and collaboration among the classroom and school-wide communities. Each classroom has an online blog that serves to share daily, documented experiences and ongoing investigations with the wider classroom community.  

Continue reading “The Blog As A Tool for Collaboration: Story from a Practicum Site”

The Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program Professional Qualities

We are currently educating children for a future that is rapidly changing. To prepare ourselves, we have to consider our role as learners – open to change, seeking possibilities, and compelled by the unknown.

 

The Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program has developed a working list of “qualities” that we seek to support our graduate students in developing throughout their 12 month teaching and learning experience. The Professional Qualities are a response to the question:

How do we educate teachers, in order to educate students, for the current and future world?

Continue reading “The Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program Professional Qualities”